Between a rock and a hard place: Balancing the duties of political responsiveness and legality in the civil service

Carina Saxlund Bischoff*

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Civil servants play a key role in upholding the core democratic principles of majority rule and legality in daily government operations. Yet we know little about how civil servants balance these principles in practice—or why. This study asks and answers these questions by qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing Danish civil servants' responses to survey questions on dilemmas that force them to choose between their duty to be responsive to government and their duty to uphold the law. To explain their choices, the analysis draws on rational and sociological institutional theories of bureaucratic behavior. The results suggest that factors related to both rational self-interest and socialization explain that as many as one in four civil servants choose responsiveness over legality. Formal organizational roles also predict their behavior.

TidsskriftPublic Administration
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)1481-1502
Antal sider22
StatusUdgivet - 2023

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